Strong Promise: Moving from Interest and Engagement in STEM to Real Academic Results
Girlstart’s mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs. Girlstart examines in this report how STEM education directed toward elementary school girls influences long-term readiness and participation to math and science learning. This report compares Girlstart After School participants’ academic performance to nonparticipant performance. Specifically, it examines how Girlstart After School influences science STAAR performance and course enrollment in subsequent elementary and early middle school grades. This quasi-experimental study uses a posttest intact group design to examine the STAAR science test performance of Girlstart After School participants in Central Texas. This study also evaluates girls’ subsequent enrollment in 6th and 7th grade math and science. Eight independent school districts in Texas are analyzed using OLS regression and propensity-score matching techniques. This analysis enables Girlstart to identify the effect of program participation on test performance both immediately after program attendance and over time. In addition, qualitative findings from student and teacher surveys from 2010-2016 complement study results. The core findings of the study are that Girlstart girls are more likely to achieve high-level STAAR science performance and enter advanced science and math courses over time than nonparticipant girls. The qualitative results show that Girlstart girls have high rates of confidence in both STEM performance and knowledge of STEM careers. We believe that this data demonstrates that Girlstart After School provides girls with the support and knowledge necessary to explore STEM topics at advanced levels of access and understanding.